The story so far: The newly launched Apple iPhone 15 Pro and iPhone 15 Pro Max will support India’s own GPS system-- commonly known as NavIC. This is the first batch of Made in India iPhones which will see support for the indigenous GPS system.
The government is keen to ask other smartphone players to integrate NavIC into their hardware by 2025. India’s homegrown navigation system is going to compete with U.S.’s GPS, EU’s Galileo, Russia’s GLONASS and China’s BeiDou.
Integration of GPS systems like the NavIC needs to be done at the hardware level. For this, smartphone makers will need purchase chips that can support such integration. Observers argue that this may raise the input cost for smartphone brands, which are likely to pass it down to buyers.
What is NavIC?
Developed by the Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), NavIC stands for Navigation with Indian Constellation. It consists of a constellation of 7 satellites and a network of ground stations. Three satellites of the constellation are placed in geostationary orbits, while four are placed in inclined geosynchronous orbits. The ground network consists of a control centre, a precise timing facility, range and integrity monitoring stations, and two-way ranging stations, among others.
(For top technology news of the day, subscribe to our tech newsletter Today’s Cache)
NavIC offers Standard Position Service (SPS) for civilian users and Restricted Service (RS) for strategic users. It has a coverage area that includes India and a region up to 1500 km beyond Indian boundaries. It is claimed to provide user position accuracy better than 20m and timing accuracy better than 50ns. NavIC SPS signals are also reportedly interoperable with GPS, Glonass, Galileo and BeiDou.
The major difference between NavIC and other global navigation systems is that NavIC manoeuvres chiefly over Indian territory (and 1,500 kms beyond it) while the latter systems revolve around the earth twice, daily.
Why do we need it?
Mainly, NavIC can majorly cut our dependence on navigation systems operated by other countries, which can be critical during emergencies, natural calamities or war. As an indigenous system, NavIC is designed keeping in mind our topography and the variety of our landscapes, by Indian scientists with a better sense of understanding the country and its geographical peculiarities.
The Indian government hence claims that NavIC can provide more accurate information, precise timings, and forecasts that can prove very beneficial at critical junctures. This, it believes, will also help the economy develop in a better manner.
What changes will smartphone manufacturers have to make?
Nothing major, but some alterations will be needed at the chipset and hardware level. To avail the benefits of NavIC, smartphone companies operating in India have to opt for NavIC-supported processors for their phones. However, manufacturers claim that there are other costs involved as well. This, they say, could result in an increase in the average selling price of phones.